Saturday, January 26, 2008

Lobbying for the restoration of the judiciary

As the elections approach we must not let the struggle for the restoration of the judiciary be lost to the campaign clamor. SAC members unanimously have agreed on the need for the restoration of the pre-Nov 3rd judiciary. Most of us also felt that boycotting the elections and starting a street movement would have been the ideal way to get this done. However, we still need to lobby all possible groups who support the restoration of judiciary, but not necessarily through boycotting elections.
Our highest respect goes to everyone who agreed to our demand to boycott the elections. In particular Imran Khan and Qazi Hussain have sacrificed their own seats in the NA as well as many seats for their party. SAC recognizes their selflessness for the country and acknowledges their contributions to the cause.
There are still many others who agree with us in principle but not in our boycott methodology. To them the best way to restore the judges is through the parliament. If the elections do take place there will be a parliament with the capacity to pass laws and amend the constitution.
It does make a lot of sense to keep our efforts going on in both frontiers: we should continue with our protests on the street for the restoration of the pre- Nov 3 judiciary and also clearly identify which groups, associations and political parties are on board for the judiciary. In particular SAC should also meet up with all major political parties, candidates, influential groups, prominent figures and "king-makers" and try to convince them to stand for the restoration of the judiciary and, in the event they are elected, take our crusade to the parliament.
Since not all political parties have had a good track record it does make sense to get their commitment in writing. At the same time SAC does not want to align itself with any political party. The easiest way for that is to start signing Memorandums of Understanding with groups from all sections of the society as well as prominent individuals who people look up to. For instance Justice Wajihuddin is not a member of any political party but a lot of us will support his stance on most political situations.
Once we have a significant number of signatures from political parties, NGOs, Student Groups, we can definitely exert enough pressure on the PPP to sign this as well. Recent statements by many PPP leaders do suggest that the PPP is somewhat inclined towards the restoration of the judiciary but is hesitant to take it up as openly as the other parties. If we can get a significant number of people who agree not to compromise on the stance for the restoration of the judiciary and to vote only for candidates who have agreed to take up this stance, then we will pose a threat to the PPP vote bank. When the usual desperation strikes in election camps in the final days it is likely that they will sign it.
A copy of the memorandum is attached. SAC members are requested to use their own networks to get it signed from as many student committees, lawyers associations, civil society groups and prominent figures of Pakistan as possible. A website is under way which will be updated regularly showing who is committed to the judiciary. Close to the elections the list will be circulated all around the country. The strength of this campaign solely depends on our ability to get it signed from a large number of organisations.
A point of clarification: SAC is a nonpartisan organization and does not endorse any single political party in Pakistan. It seeks collaboration on points of mutual agreement with all individuals and organizations, including political parties, which work towards the revival of the constitution and restoration of the judiciary to their Nov 2nd form and for student rights in Pakistan.
I suggest to everyone to get copies printed and get started on collecting signatures.
Sincerely and in solidarity,